03 August 2010

Hey kids, let's produce a bathtub in the shape of a shoe and sell boatloads of tile in the process.

So it started last week. Nick Lovelady is one of my Twitter friends and he tweets under the alias @cupboards. He threw a link up on Twitter and challenged me to write something scathing about what he dubbed drag queen bathtubs. Here are a couple of images of the tubs in question.

Nick's drag queen bathtubs sprouted legs and before too long there were between five or six people batting snarky comments back and forth about them. Nick was insistent that I write something and I agreed that I would if he did. Then I upped the pressure a bit and demanded that everybody who was trading barbs about it last Thursday deal with these things in their blogs today. As the day goes on today, I'll post links to everybody else's take on these things at the bottom of this post. I have a feeling that everybody else will me laughing about them. I thought it through and I think the joke's on us.

At first I was appalled but then I read the accompanying article. It turns out that these are real tubs but the kicker is that they're produced by Sicis. Sicis is an Italian mosaic tile company, in my mind they are the Italian mosaic tile company. Sicis is the Ravenna-based producer of some of the finest (and most expensive) glass tile on the planet. Their primary product are small-scale tiles and they're available in a color palette that's so expansive it's difficult to describe adequately.

As amazing as the quality of the color is, where Sicis really shines is as an incubator of ideas. Sicis does everything it can to enable great designers to go nuts with Sicis tile. And go nuts they do. Here's some of what I mean.

I cannot imagine any other manufacturer pulling this off.

I don't doubt for a second that Sicis will sell you one these tubs. They will sell you one of these mannequins too. But something tells me that in the deepest bowels of that factory in Ravenna, no one's pinning their hopes on you or anybody else buying a mosaic bathtub in the shape of a shoe. What Sicis want from these tubs is for people to talk about them and to talk about Sicis at the same time. So in the case of this blog post, I played right into their hand. I'm glad to do it too. Sicis makes amazing stuff and how they sell it is usually as compelling as the stuff itself.

Sicis has a new showroom on the corner of Broome and Green Streets in New York. It is the St. Peter's Basilica of mosaic tile.

No trip to New York could be considered complete without a stop there. Their neighborhood in Soho is crammed with such notable neighbors as Waterworks, Kartell, Artemide, Luceplan and their primary competitors, Bisazza. Get thee to Soho!

So after all that, we're back to the tubs. How clever is it that a company in Ravenna can encourage a designer to develop an absurd bathtub and in reaction to it, a bunch of other designers would start talking about it on Twitter. Less then a week later, all of those designers would talk about those tubs on their blogs. I think that's what we call viral marketing. Sicis spent a couple thousand euros on an absurd tub and as a result of that, they're going to sell a boatload of tile.

Since this post is part of a popular uprising on Twitter, here ae the rest of the fine folks who are weighing in on this weighty issue today. Check 'em out.

Always game Becky Shankle: Eco-Modernism is her blog,  @ecomod is her Twitter handle
Innocent bystander Alexandra Williams: Fun and Fit is her blog, @Alexandrafunfit is her Twitter handle
Chief instigator Nick Lovelady: Cupboards is his blog, @cupboards is his Twitter handle
Guilty bystander Bill Buyok: AventeTile Talk is his blog,  @AventeTile is his Twitter handle
Puppet master Rufus Dogg, AKC, PhD, DS: Dog Walk Blog is his blog, @dogwalkblog is his Twitter handle
The divine Madame Sunday: Modern Sauce is her blog, @ModernSauce is her Twitter handle


  1. Amazing that a simple find can lead back to a company with the Midas touch...

    Guess it's ok for even the best to put out something quirky every now and then.


  2. Were you familiar with Sicis before this tub thing?

  3. The tile - exquisite! The designs and marketing - thinking outside the box! The giant shoe tubs - perrrrrfect for those who have a shoe fetish!

  4. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees the genius lurking behind these tubs.

  5. What amazing marketing. Actually I would love to design a bath around one of these beauties ( or beasts depending on your point of view) It would really be the wow factor that some clients ( not any of mine) with way to much money and not enough taste are looking for. You know the ones that love the unexpected...... I can see Liberace coming back form the grave for this one.

  6. Too much even for SICIS. They do have other tubs that are more subtle. I think New Ravenna is equally amazing in their mosaics. Great new patterns this year from Coverings!

  7. The floor in the first photo is divine! The tubs are a little over the top but they must be luxurious to lounge in. The tile is amazing and what a great way to bring attention to their artistry!

  8. Sue: I think they're tacky but I know there are people out there who don't. But those tubs, and all of Sicis' sculptural installations do a terrific job of drawing attention to Sicis.
    all together.
    Lee: Touting the wonders and joys of Sara and the rest of the crew at New Ravenna is a part time job for me. I cannot say enough good things about them. However, Sicis' stuff is another thing all together. In my mind Sicis and New Ravenna are an apples to oranges comparison.

    Cyra: Imagine a tub covered in DuQuella tile...

  9. Sorry took me a moment to follow-up...

    I wasn't familiar per se, but I had seen their ads in Vanity Fair. I ripped one out one time and stuck it in one of my binders.

    Interesting, I didn't put the 2 together!

  10. Sarah @Mouser Cabinet Trends03 August, 2010 12:52

    Does anyone have Mariah Carey's number? I think it's time she remodel her bath...

  11. She's just the client for these things. Perfect!

  12. you know, while I don't much like the "shoe" aspect of these tubs (and don't get me wrong, i LOVE shoes).. they do look comfortable for those of us who are big fans of hour long (or more) baths for a good read. I think if they took off that stupid stiletto part and just painted them to look like big Asian porcelain soup spoons they'd be WAY cooler.

  13. Well I was thinking of lounging in the tub drinking my champagne from a red slipper.......why not a martini glass tub and my red slipper for my glass........ hmmm I can tell I am not getting in work done today. Luv posts that get my creative juices moving.

  14. Sicis know exactly what they are doing when it comes to tile! LOVE IT.--so much inspiration.

  15. I've NEVER heard of Sicis before this. I hate the tubs, but now I want to use their tile, not to mention travel to Italy to soak in one of those incredible pools. Marketing genius!

  16. SO Sicis will sell us the tubs and more? Heck, I'll sell you my twin, ole' what's her Alexandra of Fun and Fit. "Innocent bystander" my freckles! I do love a nice tile job though.....

  17. Nick and Leigh: Well, now you know exactly who Sicis is. Take the seven minutes to watch that video, it's explains their take on selling mosaics perfectly. It doesn't hurt that the visuals are stunning.

    Nim: Now that you mentioned it, don't be surprised if they come out with an Asian soup spoon that's about six feet long and covered in gold mosaic tiles.

    Sue: I'm glad these things could send you off into fantasy land. have you ever been to a Sicis showroom? I think there's one in LA. They are as much an art gallery as anything. You'll be transported to a salon in Milan.

    Laura: I'm glad somebody else knows that Sicis is being shrewd. I'd resent it if their stuff weren't so drop dead gorgeous. I have some Sicis samples and they never fail to captivate me.

    Fun and Fit: Thanks for being such a great bystander. You had no idea it would come to this when you sent that Tweet to nick last week, did you? I love Twitter so much it hurts sometimes.

  18. Thoughtful, insightful, and spot-on post! I had a similar reaction of distaste when I first saw these "shoe tub" images. I thought America over-excess; but, then the little sparkly tiles caught my attention - as they often do.

    SICIS is selling the sizzle and not the steak. Or in this case, the tiles not tub!

  19. They do it all the time and I swear that's what's made their reputation what it is. Trend and Bisazza sell tile, but Sicis sells art. Brilliant!


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